Vintage Golf Bag

Did you see this golf club review?

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scomac
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Vintage Golf Bag

Scott had asked me to post a pick of the bag of vintage clubs that I had put together this past winter.  The irons and fairway woods I already owned as they were part of the first set of clubs I ever bought around 25 years ago, but never really played much.  I picked up a few odds and ends that were of that general vintage to fill out the bag which now consists of the following:

Driver:  Callaway Big Bertha Warbird 11° w/RCH 90

Fairways:  Spalding Executive 3W, 5W w/TT Jet Step Lite

Irons:  Precision II Dictator BeCu 3-PW w/Precision FM 5.5

Wedge:  Palm Springs Diamond BeCu SW

Putter:  Ram Zebra upright lie angle

 

image: 
Scott Rushing
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Nice looking set

Wow Sco, those are nice looking clubs.  Man the fairway woods are huge by today's standards.  Very nice though

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scomac
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Nice looking set
Nice looking set

Wow Sco, those are nice looking clubs.  Man the fairway woods are huge by today's standards.  Very nice though

Thanks.  Actually those fairway woods are pretty compact.  You have to keep in mind that the Callaway Big Bertha Warbird is only 195cc head.  When I sole it next to my modern Cobra AMP 3W, they're very similar in size and shaft length for that matter.  Where you would notice more of a difference with laminate or persimon woods is that the face is fairly tall in relation to the footprint.

The biggest challenge is in finding a ball that is appropriate particularly with the woods.  Low compression and high spin is the ideal combination for getting the ball airborne.  You have to avoid the distance balls as they are so hard that they can actually crack a wooden head if you miss badly.  Wilson Duos and Srixon Soft Feel have gotten pretty good reviews from guys that play vintage a lot. 

DON
Nice clubs, I especially like

Nice clubs, I especially like the look of those irons. What do you think of them so far and how do you think they compare to todays modern iron designs?

Don

Putting is easy if you have the Right Putter.

scomac
scomac's picture
I would describe the irons as

I would describe the irons as a knock-off of early Ping Eye series irons.  The head shape is very similar as is the amount of off-set, which is quite pronounced particularly in the wedges versus modern designs.  Sole and topline are very thin for a cavity back.  The sole has a reasonable amount of radius, but no camber to speak of and bounce angle is negative in all but the wedges.  They aren't nearly as forgiving as my modern irons particularly in terms of side spin and the amount of curve that you can involuntarily put on the ball, but they're still fairly playable even down to the 3 or 4 iron, but your swing needs to be on.  Feedback on misshits can be fairly harsh.  They work best with a smooth compact swing.

Loft and lie angle are fairly close to my modern irons.  These are fairly light too for having a full weight steel shaft and as a result I'm hopeful that I will be able to move back and forth between the vintage and modern sets without too much adjustment.  I don't have any illusions though that my i25's aren't going to be easier to play.  At this point I'd say that the vintage irons are about a club length weaker in terms of distance.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me so far with very limited range time has been that the old Callaway War Bird driver has been a real fairway finder.  It launches surprisingly high and very, very straight.  It's not particularly long, but that may not matter.  The other surprise has been with the Ram Zebra putter.  I could game that thing straight up regardless of what vintage of clubs I'm using.  I really like the way it sets up and how it feels.

scomac
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I took the 5 iron out this

I took the 5 iron out this afternoon and hit a few balls out of my shag bag.  I sprayed them around a bit, but other than the one I hit really fat, distance was very consistent.  The balls I hit were old and cold, so I can't say for sure about distance, but I would call it a club shorter than my i25's.  They actually felt pretty darned solid; better than I remember.  That maybe reflective of having fresh grips on -- Lamkin Tour Wrap midsize -- versus the hard and slick 30 yr. old grips that were on them.  The Precision FM5.5 shafts are definitely lower launching than the Ping TFC 189's on my i25's.  There was more than enough spin to get hop and stop though, so the lower flight might actually work out favourably particularly when the wind kicks up in mid summer.

I need some more range time with these, but I'm cautiously optimistic as to how this bag is going to play.  They aren't going to be as forgiving, but that may not be a negative if I can improve the quality of my strike.  Distance may ultimately be the big drawback, but I won't know until I actually hit some new balls with these clubs.  From discussing with others who regularly play vintage, they say that anything under 6000 yards you will not notice a material difference in terms of scoring ability.  After that, the loss of yards off the tee starts to really bite.  The beauty of vintage kit is that it allows the golfer to play older courses in the way in which the architect intended.  It will completely change the way you view a round at those courses.  Considering I play a lot of shorter and/or older tracts, this should play into my favour.

Scott Rushing
Scott Rushing's picture
You know...

I've heard others talk about the old Callaway woods and how well they played.  So your experience doesn't surprise me.    I'll be interested in hearing how the irons play.  In theory if they're perimeter weighted other than some distance and forgiveness, given your swing is probably better, I bet you'll do ok with them.  Actually there' s something appealing about your suggestion about playing the courses they way they were designed.  Not just driver wedge...

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scomac
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I'll be interested in hearing

I'll be interested in hearing how the irons play.

I played my first nine hole outing with the vintage bag on Tuesday.  I had been hitting the clubs a bit around home for two to three weeks trying to get comfortable with them after a long winter lay-off (other than my one Florida round).  Results had been inconsistent prior to my round so I had zero expectations.  I was more than pleasantly surprised.

I got along very well with the irons.  I would say there's very little to choose between modern and vintage over the course of a round going from shot to shot and club to club once you've got your yardages dialed in.  This isn't necessarily apparent on the range where you have the advantage of hitting shot after shot with the same club where the added forgiveness comes into play.  The biggest difference for me is lower flight and about a club to a club and a half shorter with the vintage versus the modern.  These are the first irons I've played without significant bounce and I really like the turf interaction.  I cut a couple of beaver pelts when I got too steep, but I wasn't digging to China in what were extremely soft conditions.

Due to essentially guessing on what iron to pull, I was short more often than not, but it did give my an opportunity to hit several pitches with a variety of clubs -- 7, 9, PW & SW.  One disadvantage with wide soled clubs is that it can be very difficult to hit less than full shots.  I had no such issues with these relative butter knives and as a result that opens up a lot of potential for creative shot making, something that seems to have been lost with modern golf.

It's going to take a bit of getting used to, mostly from the yardage that I'm voluntarily giving up.  That would end it for most folks right there, but when everything tends to remain in play, it forces you to think your way around the course and you realize that you aren't actually giving up much if anything in the way of strokes.  There's also a certain sense of satisfaction when you can hit a drive beyond your playing partner's 460 cc club shot and post a better score than a regular player who is sporting a bag full of the latest shiny kit even if just by a stroke.

I'm sure I'll have days that don't go nearly as well and I will likely be subjected to a few cat calls over my choice of weaponry, but I suppose that goes with the territory when making such choices.  The intrigue of playing something so completely different than what I have been playing more or less since I began keeps these clubs firmly in my bag.  It's going to be a journey.  :D

 

 

Scott Rushing
Scott Rushing's picture
Cool.  Have fun with it Sco. 

Cool.  Have fun with it Sco.  The key is you're having fun and hitting some good shots.   We have gotten to where distance is the key when really it's not THE key...low scores is the key.  There's many of time I've looked at a 240 yard shot and played that as wedge-wedge because I didn't want to risk the penalty of trying to reach.  Usually it works out no worse  - if not better - than swinging widly trying to reach something thats just out of reach.  Smart golf, which is not what we always play, is a good way to lowering scores.

So keep us posted.

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scomac
scomac's picture
We have gotten to where

We have gotten to where distance is the key when really it's not THE key...low scores is the key. 

The game is quite a bit different when you keep the ball in front of you and out of trouble regardless of how well you hit the ball or how far.  I think this is the secret that allows so many women and seniors to play as effectively as they do with what would appear to a typical male golfer to be a serious distance handicap.

I played again yesterday and struggled quite a bit with my ball striking after about 6 holes.  I was sore and tight all round and just couldn't get loosened up properly.  I imagine I would have struggled no matter what type or age of clubs I was using.  And yet, I still managed to get around the course playing bogie golf.  I've been gaining confidence with my short game using these clubs and have resorted to using some irons for chipping and pitching to good effect.  I've never been able to do that with modern chunky soled irons, but these work beautifully.

I'm getting a few questions as to why I'm playing these old things when I have new clubs sitting at home.  Nostalgia is my answer, but the truth is that I don't feel like I'm chasing something be it a score or whatever.  It may sound a bit sappy, but I would liken it to getting to know a new lover with all their quirks and surprises; their perfections and imperfections.  It's not something to be mastered, but rather to enjoy as you play.  I really believe when I put these clubs away for the season, I'm going to be a better player because of it.

scomac
scomac's picture
I've been out about three

I've been out about three more times since my last post with the vintage bag.  In fact, I have been playing these exclusively so far this spring.  I have benched the laminate fairway woods in favour of a pair of BB War bird fairways to achieve a measure of consistency in the long end of the bag.  That makes the bag not quite as vintage as it was initially, but it has certainly helped my ball striking and I'm hitting these quite a bit longer now then when I started with them.  I've even got to the point where I'm starting to hit a bit of a draw now whereas my stock shot has always been a fade.

My scores are gradually improving, but that mostly is dependant upon avoiding blow-up holes and putting well.  Nothing new there as those factors have always been the determinant to my scoring.  If I'm having a good swing day with the irons, I've had a lot of fun hitting long irons.  Hybrids maybe easier to hit, but they aren't nearly as rewarding as a well struck 3 or 4 iron.  I don't see much difference in the mid and short irons versus moderns beyond the distance discrepancy which is at least partially loft related.  Chipping and pitching is always a matter of touch and that only comes with repitition.  If I was a smart man, I would sell all my 460cc Ti drivers and revert to first or second generation steel headed woods.  There seems to be a real accuracy advantage that I've gained in exchange for the loss of distance.  That loss of distance isn't really all the extreme either.  I can recall only one tee shot with the BB War bird driver that wasn't in play this spring.  I'm still left trying to figure out why the large headed titanium drivers are superior from not only a distance, but also forgiveness perspective.  I know that my experience is only anecdotal, but it has left an impression upon me to be sure. 

Scott Rushing
Scott Rushing's picture
Cool Sco.  Sounds like you're

Cool Sco.  Sounds like you're having fun and that's what the game is about.  Whether you hit a 7I 150 or 175, hitting it pure and seeing it fly where you intended is great.  Using the vintage clubs, sounds like you're learning ways to score and improving areas like your short game, which is all good.  Keep having fun!  

I used to have a set of the Callaway Steelhead fairyway woods, but never really hit the BB's.  But everyone I hear talk about them have nothing but good things to say...

 

 

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scomac
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Cool Sco.  Sounds like you're

Cool Sco.  Sounds like you're having fun and that's what the game is about.  Whether you hit a 7I 150 or 175, hitting it pure and seeing it fly where you intended is great.  Using the vintage clubs, sounds like you're learning ways to score and improving areas like your short game, which is all good.  Keep having fun!  

I am continuing to play these clubs almost exclusively this season.  I have used my modern bag for only four rounds this year.  I just really enjoy hitting these old irons and wedges.  I've also found that my putting has become very consistent with the old RAM Zebra -- alignment is easy and I have very good control of pace.  I haven't kept track of the numbers, but I'm fairly confident that I'm enjoying my best season putting.

What I have found helpful to keeping these irons in my gamer bag is using a modern driver.  There is a big difference and that's one of the truly meaningful gains in equipment technology.  I'm playing a TM R7 425 with the vintage bag, so it isn't exactly new either, but it is of modern design.  Some days I'll play the old laminate fairways which I find more reliable than the Warbirds; other days I substitute in a more modern fairway and hybrid, particularly on longer tracks and that generally has resulted in my best scoring combo, so my bag has become a bit of a hodge podge, part mid 80's and part mid 2000's.  Best of all 12 clubs in a Sunday bag makes for a nice light walk versus a fully loaded cart bag with 14 clubs and all the sundry other stuff!  Cheaper too!  wink

DON
BeCu and Cancer

Just be aware that BeCu is a known Cancer causing metal. I do not know if that's a reason they don't make irons out of BeCu anymore, but it could be one reason. BeCu is Great for making Sleeve bearing for large machines, but you have to be carefull when you machine it. Don't want in inhale any dust particles or touch it too much

Don

Putting is easy if you have the Right Putter.

scomac
scomac's picture
Thanks for the heads up Don.

Thanks for the heads up Don.  I was aware that the material has toxic properties.  I wear gloves when working on them and have been advised to wear a respirator if grinding or heating the heads.

It's really too bad that the BeCu and BeNi alloys that Ping used to offer is no longer available due to these issues as the feel from these heads is quite exceptional; easily as "soft" as a forged head and quite a bit "nicer" than the current lot that use 17-4 even with the addition of the tuning port and insert.

Scott Rushing
Scott Rushing's picture
Wow, I didn't realize that. 

Wow, I didn't realize that.  Thanks for the heads up.  Never played with any clubs made out of those materials but heard very good things about the old sets.  Makes sense they would not be able to use that these days.

 

 

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DON
I'm glad to be of help.

I'm glad to read the you knew about the dangers of your BeCu irons. and glad that Scott now knows to be safe around them. There are a lot of thngs that we use every day that can be qjite harmfull to both animals and plants if ther are not used with care. I know that most dog owners are aware that Chocolate is poinsoness to Dogs, but how many people realize that Onionn and Garlic are just as bad for dogs? I sure didn't know this until one day one of my dogs fell down due to eating the greens of some onions that I had growing in my garden. After that I had to move the onion patch to a different area of the garden that the dogs couldn't get intol Cost me a rather large  Vet bill and almost lost a nice dog due to this lack of knowledge.

Don

Putting is easy if you have the Right Putter.

Aimee
Aimee's picture
dog

Seems like dogs want to eat just about everything. Cats have more sense, when our cat begs for a taste of our food, if she smells it is spicy she won't eat it. I always tell my husband to wash the chicken or fish off to remove the spices, but she can discern if it isn't clean enough. And I won't let him feed her anything that had contact with a lot of onion and/or garlic just to be safe.

It's not how...it's how many

DON
Cat have more sense, or just picky eaters?

I'm not usre if cat have more sense or if it's just that cats are more picky about what they eat. A friedn of mine has a cat that will NOT eat the same kind of cat food two days in a row. He has to to buy 3 or 4 kinds of food so he can give the cat a different flavor each day, or it will turn it's nose up at it.

Don

Putting is easy if you have the Right Putter.

scomac
scomac's picture
So I've got pretty much to

So I've got pretty much to the point where I've been gaming those vintage clubs exclusively now.  Strangely, I get a greater level of satisfaction out of playing those than modern when the performance is equal in terms of scoring.  Scott's post about his experiences with a fitting and using the hybrid that Don spine and flowed for him spurred me to share this with you.

On Tuesday I was playing with a friend and we were paired with another couple.  After a few holes "Bob" was quite curious about my BeCu irons.  It turned out that he and I had many friends in common in our local bowling fraternity and he had built a number of sets of clubs for a few of those same guys.  He was quiet familiar with my irons because he had worked on them many years ago, in fact he built the set for the former owner!

The significance of this is that these old irons have proven to be the most accurate irons I have ever played.  They aren't particularly high launching, but they do impart lots of spin on the ball.  Put a good swing on the ball and I know where it's going and how far.  They are superior to my i25's in this regard.  As we discussed this following the round, he talked about the premium shafts he always used in his builds and that they were frequency matched and aligned on the install.  I don't have the benefit of a before and after comparison, but based on results it seems to be worthwhile.

DON
Good to hear

I think you just confirmed what I've been telling golfers for years. You have good shafts that were aligned properly in your BeCu irons, and they are your most accurate irons you have ever played. That is NOT a surprise to me at all.

Don

Putting is easy if you have the Right Putter.

Scott Rushing
Scott Rushing's picture
Yeah, good equipment is good

Yeah, good equipment is good equipment...doesn't get worse just because it's vintage.  properly built and a good fit for you, produces good results.   That's not to say there's not another set that wouldn't produce better results for you but if you put a good swing on it, the results are good.  

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NiftyNiblick
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NiftyNiblick
NiftyNiblick's picture
The Spalding Executive (1977

The Spalding Executive (1977 model) woods matched irons that had a shaft over hosel design and are thus not reshaftable (or I might still take them out from time to time).

In 1978, I bought the whole set:  driver, 3-wood, 4-wood, 5-wood, 7-wood, 1-9 irons, PW, and SW which I played with a Ram Zebra putter.  The irons were extremely sole weighted and the lofts were at least a full club weaker than modern irons. They were matched up for use with the original 336 dimple Top Flite ball (not the XL) which was seriously hard.

The woods were laminated maple with cycolac inserts and were not damaged hitting the hard balls as might have been the case with  persimmon heads and their classic fiber inserts.  At the age they are now, though, I'd be careful.

 

scomac
scomac's picture
It has been just over two

It has been just over two years since I started this thread.  I'm still playing my vintage clubs from time-to-time.  I tend to go in streaks with the old clubs.  Last fall I played them exclusively from September until our club closed end of November.

The contents of the bag has changed a bit since I put the initial set together.  I have continued to acquire vintage kit when I run across something I would like to try that I can get at a good price.  I have two full bags now that includes a set of forged blades; Golden Ram Axial Tour Grind, a matched set of persimmon woods; PowerBilt Citations and the RAM Tom Watson Scoring System forged wedges.

I played the Tour Grinds with a set of laminate woods last fall on a few outings and was surprised at how well they played.  They aren't as tough to hit as you might imagine and good swings are well rewarded.  I'm really looking forward to playing them more this season now that I have added a proper set of persimmon woods with suitable shafts.  The beauty of these classic clubs from the Golden era of golf is that sets can be assembled quite cheaply versus the prices typically being commanded now for playable sets of vintage hickory clubs which can sell for several hundred dollars a club for rare models in playing condition.

My interest in this niche area of golf has led me to start to look for some older instruction books from the blades and persimmon era.  The classic swing techniques of that era are quite a bit different than what is being espoused today in the modern era.  This is also reflected in the specifications of the clubs as the vintage stuff is shorter, heavier and flatter in lie angle than anything remotely comparable today.  It really is a different game now with some of the skill and strategy of the earlier era being lost as the game has changed to one of distance and forgiveness.  Perhaps the most shocking part of all this for me was discovering that when you catch the old clubs just right, you hit the ball every bit as far as you do with anything modern.  The mistakes are more penal, but that doesn't always result in dropped shots.  Forgiveness can be a two-way street -- better and worse.

Scott Rushing
Scott Rushing's picture
Sco,  I've enjoyed reading

Sco,  I've enjoyed reading about your adventures with the ventage clubs. My vintage clubs are early and mid 90's clubs from when I first started but from time to time I take one with me to the range and swing it.  Makes me realize the big advances have been in forgiveness not distance.  If you can groove a swing with those irons, you can hit anything modern.

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scomac
scomac's picture
Sco,  I've enjoyed reading

Sco,  I've enjoyed reading about your adventures with the vintage clubs. My vintage clubs are early and mid 90's clubs from when I first started but from time to time I take one with me to the range and swing it.  Makes me realize the big advances have been in forgiveness not distance.  If you can groove a swing with those irons, you can hit anything modern.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with you on that one, Scott.  I know that I'm not alone on this too having had many lengthy discussions with other vintage enthusiasts.

Grooving a swing with vintage irons doesn't necessarily promise that you will hit the modern version equally well.  Certainly not the game improvement varieties.  The issue lies in turf interaction with the preponderance of fat bottomed irons with loads of bounce.  Bounce maybe your friend in a sand trap or extremely soft conditions, but it isn't particularly helpful with firm and/or tight turf.  The wide sole only exacerbates the problem.

When I was really struggling with my ball striking early last season, I simply went out and played a few rounds with my old copper irons and that seemed to help me slot my swing in better.  When I went back to my modern clubs I was striking the ball much better.  The extra weight and better balance of the older irons helped me to slot in my swing versus the modern graphite shafted irons which had me coming OTT.

I don't want to get into a debate about what forgiveness really amounts to or the merits of enhanced launch and spin characteristics.  These are certainties of physics.  The more important thing to ask is what does this do for your golf game?  Yup, the 400+ cc titanium driver has been a godsend.  So has the advent of the hybrid.  The rest; not so much.  I've seen more tentative, stabby putting lately by good players using a piece of space junk on a stick with more aiming aids than an airport runway while trying to manipulate it through a pool noodle.  That's a whole lot of distraction separating you from the task at hand!  Been there, tried that.  I still log consistently better putting stats using a 45 year old Ping Zing with a refreshed version of the original thin Pingman grip.  Alignment aids?  There's a dot on the topline.

Apologies for the rant, but this leads me to my final point.  With all the so called gains that have been chronicled through the advances in club design, why don't we play better golf?  USGA stats indicate that the average GHIN has dropped two whole strokes in the past 20 odd years.  That's not a lot of improvement considering how much better our tools are supposed to be.